Subordinating Conjunction: Examples & Definition

Instructor: Susan Nami

Susan has taught middle school English for five years and has a master's degree in teaching.

In this lesson, we will examine subordinating conjunctions. These types of conjunctions are perfect for joining sentences together in order to improve sentence structure and add more variety to our writing.

Definition

I am going to the movies. I am going to eat dinner first. My friends will pick me up. We will go to the theater together. Melissa likes scary movies. We will probably go see one of those. What's wrong with this little story? It's incredibly boring, no? It could almost be read with a robotic voice. I can actually hear a robot talking when I read it. At one point, we all wrote this way. Back in the day, when we were learning the basics of putting a sentence together and just trying to understand punctuation, we wrote in this choppy structure. At some point, though, our writing improved, or is currently improving, and we are elevating our style. One way to achieve this improvement is to combine choppy sentences for a smoother structure.

Enter the subordinating conjunction. This guy's main objective is to help join sentences and create smoother transitions between ideas. From now on, I will refer to him as the SC (it's shorter). Let's examine the same sentences from above, but this time we will add the SC to join them together. I have underlined the conjunctions, so you can see what I mean.

Before I go to the movies, I am going to eat dinner. After my friends pick me up, we will go to the theater together. We will probably see a scary movie if Melissa gets her way.

As you can see, just by adding these conjunctions and joining the sentences, our writing has greatly improved simply because it has changed from choppy to smooth. A subordinating conjunction is a useful transition to use in our writing and is the beginning of a subordinate clause. There are two types of clauses: independent and subordinate. The independent clause has a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence. The subordinate clause also has a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone as a sentence because of the subordinating conjunction. Therefore, it needs at least one independent clause by its side. A sentence with at least one subordinate clause and one independent clause is called a complex sentence.

Examples

Let's examine our earlier sentences after I changed them into complex ones.

Subordinate clause: Before I go to the movies,

Independent clause: I am going to eat my dinner.

Before we added our SC, our sentence read, 'I am going to the movies,' which has one subject and one verb and can stand alone. When we changed the structure and added 'before' (the SC), we changed the clause from independent to subordinate. By doing this, we made a transition from one event to the next, which created a smoother sentence structure. We also demonstrated how the events would occur according to time, because another function of the SC is to show relationships between ideas or events according to time, place or cause and effect. As a side note, please notice that when the subordinate clause comes before the independent clause, we must use a comma. When you read it aloud, you can actually hear a natural pause where the comma should go.

Common subordinating conjunctions: After, although, as, as if, even though, even if, if, before, because, since, whenever, whereas, wherever, until, unless, though, whether, while

Let's take a look at our other subordinate clauses from above for examples.

Subordinate clause: After my friends pick me up

SC: After Subject: my friends Verb: pick

Subordinate clause: If Melissa gets her way

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